Hip hop & rap music in Nigeria is gaining mainstream media attention in the past weeks. Suddenly everyone wants to rap or lay claim to the rap throne. Although the conversation gets stronger around hip hop and rap gets more people engaged, it has only been about one person dissing the other.
These chants of hip hop is back should go beyond recording diss tracks but unto more important things like the excellency of the music, hip hop artistes influencing the culture and securing the bags. Then can we truly say Hip Hop as a genre is alive and kicking in Nigeria.
So far, the genre has come a long way thanks to some folks who laid the foundation for whatever structures we have now.
In this post we hope to highlight some of the biggest contributors to hip hop and rap music in Nigeria.
In no particular order
1. M.I Abaga
The Chocolate City boss Jude Abaga made his official debut on the Nigerian music scene as at 2006. His arrival was a breath of fresh air while Nigerian hip hop and rap was mainly led by folks like Eedris Abdulkareem, Ruggedman, elDee and Mode 9. M.I got mainstream attention with his track ‘Safe’ and subsequent debut album ‘Talk About It’ and the ‘Illegal Music’ mixtape series. While the previously mentioned forerunners of hip hop were getting redundant with the style and flow, M.I this smooth punchlines laced with an ‘American Accent’. Besides being the hottest rapper at the time, Jude is mostly remembered for the long list of proteges he helped to the limelight. From his brother Jesse Jagz to Ice Prince, Ruby Gyang, Wizkid and a host of others. He became the first Nigerian hip hop to be nominated by the BET Awards in the ‘Best International Act’ category.
2. Mode 9
The Nigerian hip-hop veteran Babatunde Olusegun Adewale has always been highly rated by music heads. The rapper can easily be placed at number one and that would just be fine. Mode 9 brought a lot of seriousness to Nigerian hip hop and rap in terms of lyricism, technicality and a certain rawness. Former OAP is the highest holder of The Headies ‘lyricist on the roll’ award. He has the longest discography as a rapper in Nigeria with 8 albums excluding mixtapes and featured albums. Mode 9 gained even more notoriety after he went after Muna and Ruggedman in his diss tracks. It is believed Mode 9 effectively ended Ruggedman’s career after he dissed the latter.
Born Michael Ugochukwu Stephens, Ruggedman is one of Nigeria’s earliest and most successful rappers. Ruggedman became the founder of ‘making commercially successful’ hip hop tunes. The rapper dropped the pure English and hardcore rap which was popular at the time for lyrics with pidgin and local lingo. He made rap tunes you could dance to and easily relate with. He charted a new path that would feed many rappers to come after him. During his glory days, Ruggedman dissed a few of his colleagues as its the sport in hip hop. He was at some point on a head collision with Mode 9 in the ‘fight’ for the best rapper in Africa. He also dissed the likes of Eedris Abdulkareem and 9ice until their personal issues were sorted out.
4. Nigga Raw
While Ruggedman introduced commercial hip hop and rap in pidgin English with lots of African vibes to it, Nigga Raw charted another path for indigenous rap. He made hits like ‘Obodo’, ‘Hip Hop Gyration’, ‘O! Chukwu’ etc., off rapping in his local dialect Igbo. He became a forerunner for the likes of iLLBliss, Phyno, Zoro etc who now finesse what he started. Nigga Raw made us understand you could rap in your dialect and everything would be just fine.
5. Da Grin
Nearly a decade since Oladapo Olaitan Olaonipekun better known as Da Grin passed on his legacy still lingers on as far as indigenous hip hop is concerned. Da Grin laid the blueprints for Yoruba hip hop as it were with his debut album ‘Chief Executive Omoita (C.E.O)‘, a Nigerian classic. Before his untimely death, Da Grin bagged several nominations and won The Headies Award for ‘Best Rap Album’. Lots of contemporary indigenous rappers from the West still reference him as their biggest inspiration. Imagine what indigenous hip hop would look like if Da Grin was still alive?
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Shortly after the demise of Da Grin, Olamide Adedeji simply known as Olamide or by his alias Baddo entered the spotlight. His emergence was timely after the loss of his ‘predessesor’. Olamide came through massively with a solid debut album ‘Rapsodi‘ and shortly followed by ‘YBNL‘. The rapper made national hits that banged across the West, East, North and South. Olamide proved you can be great after jumping ship from his former record label Coded Tunes to established his own YBNL music imprint. The rapper wasn’t only churning out hits yearly but he brought several artistes to national prominence. We have Baddo to thank for Adekunle Gold, Lil Kesh, Chinko Ekun, Fireboy DML etc. The ‘Eni Duro‘ crooner is the first rapper to sell out the Eko Convention Center back to back for the past years. He may be singing more these days but none of the young cats has come halfway in achieving what he has done so far as a rapper.
7. Ice Prince
Panshak Henry Zamani widely known as Ice Prince is about the biggest rappers to come out of Nigeria and the legacy lives on. Ice Prince ushered in an era of ‘soft boy’ laid back rap. The man wasn’t trying to be the lyricist of the year but strictly having a good time while at rapping, something he is hated for. Ice Prince gave us the biggest continental rap song ever until date. ‘Oleku’ didn’t just blow up in Nigeria but across the continent with top rappers like Sarkodie making their own cover of the record. At the time Ice Prince showed up rapper started enjoying the good life, however, Ice Prince took it to another level. The Jos-raised rapper was living like a pop star. He bagged endorsement deals with Telcos Etisalat, LG mobile, Hennessy, and several other multinationals. Apart from making living like a pop star, Ice Prince is the only Nigerian rapper to have won a BET Award.
8. Eedris Abdulkareem
Eedris Abdulkareem is an ancestor of hip hop music as far as Nigeria is concerned. He is amongst the earliest players in the scene as apart of the popular late 90s group The Remedies. His fame came more strongly after the group broke up and he went solo. He is best known for songs like ‘Mr Lecturer’, ‘Jaga Jaga’ which are also titles of his albums. Eedris songs especially the aforementioned two, are still relevant many years after. Nigeria is very much in shambles ‘Jaga Jaga’ and lecturers in Nigerian tertiary institutions are still having ‘sex for grades’ as chronicled in ‘Mr Lecturer’. He also extended his popularity with publicised altercation with 50 Cent on a flight to Port Harcourt.
Thanks to Nigga Raw and iLLBliss who paved the way for the emergence of Phyno as far as indigenous Igbo hip hop and rap goes. His first moment of glory came as a featured act on ‘Anam Achikwanu’ by iLLBliss. A year later Phyno cane through with his professional debut single ‘Ghost Mode‘. Nigga Raw and iLLY mag have pioneered rapping in Igbo,but Phyno made the arts flawless. He polished up whatever his predecessors did. His debut album ‘No Guts No Glory’ is a classic in its own right. Chibuzor Nelson Azubuike managed to garner love from the East his region, the West and Naija as a whole. Yearly the rapper cum singer sells out the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu for his Phynofest. If you ask me, Phyno is the icing on the cake of Igbo hip hop movement.
Lanre Dabiri better known as eLDee is one of those Nigerian hip hop and rap is grateful to have had. He is the founding member of Trybesmen a hip hop group in the early 2000s. Through his label he introduced folks like Eva Alordiah, Dr Sid, Sasha P, etc. Through eLDee Nigeria witnessed it first generation of female Emcees in hip hop and rap. eLDee as a rapper gave us some massive tunes during his active years.
Jesse ‘Jagz’ Abaga is a prime example that being immensely talented does not guarantee commercial success as an artiste. Jargo has many sides to him as an artiste, he is a songwriter, music producer, and rapper. Some of the biggest hits to come out of Chocolate City were produced by him. Despite his inability to realize his full potential, the emperor as he is fondly called has r solid albums his name. His third studio “Jagz Nation Vol 2; Royal Niger Company” is highly underrated. Jesse brought in a high level of lyricism, intellectualism and a form of spiritualism to music.
Sinzu (Sauce Kid)
Born Babalola Falemi, but widely known as Sauce Kid and now Sinzu is one of Nigeria’s most talented rapper to have ever graced the scene. Sinzu debuted with a banging single ‘Omoge Wa Jo’ featuring Mike Okri. That thing Ruggedman did by blending hip hop and Afrobeats to achieve a danceable track, Sinzu finessed it. Growing up in America, Sinzu brought the accent blended with indigenous slangs and lingo. While at it, Sinzu gave us jams, party bangers and dope debut album ‘African American’.
Folarin Falana came into the game with his own unique style of hip hop and rap. While some folks made hop hop intellectual, indigenous, conscious etc. Falz added comic relief to hip hop and rap. Besides Ice Prince who won BET ‘Best International Act: Africa’, Falz is the only Nigerian rapper to have bagged another BET award after winning in the ‘Viewer’s Choice Best New International Act’ category, 2016.